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Labor Day Hurricane 1935

Page 6:  Buildings

Wood framed buildings fared poorly in the 1935 Hurricane. Some survivors had to ride out the storm in their automobile, after their wood framed house fell apart in the wind. Thus the need to build strong buildings.

Another lesson was to seek high ground above the flood surge and/or subsequent ebb current. Thus the need to build the strong buildings above ground level.

The following photograph shows construction of a reinforced concrete hurricane shelter above ground level in Islamorada in 1938:

Figure 6.1:  Construction of a hurricane shelter in Islamorada, 1938.

That hurricane shelter was not large enough for a growing Keys population, and eventually it became the Islamorada Public Library. A larger two-story concrete building elsewhere in Islamorada now serves as a hurricane shelter. The second story of the newer building is higher off the ground, better able to be above potential flood level.

Note: Since transportation is much easier in the Keys now, new regulations require that storm shelters only be used for Category 1 and 2 storms; Category 3 or above storms now require complete evacuation of the Keys. The 1935 Hurricane was Category 5, which is the highest hurricane category.

Houses have also been built stronger. Fig. 8.11 in Coch shows a “hurricane home” built by the Red Cross for survivors of the 1935 hurricane. The following photograph shows one of those houses:

Figure 6.2:  Red Cross hurricane home.

Each of those homes was entirely constructed of reinforced concrete, including the roof. The homes are single story, with a cistern underneath the floor (behind the entry stairs) for capturing rain water from the roof.

Subsequent construction opted for full two-stories, to put the upper floor further above the ground:

Figure 6.3:  1970s hotel in the Keys.

Integrated reinforced concrete roofs (Fig. 6.3) prevent high winds and negative air pressure from pulling the roof off.

Strong hurricanes may blow off roofs.

Figure 6.4:  Hurricane Donna storm damage in Islamorada, 1960.

Wood frame roofs should be attached to walls with metal straps (called “hurricane ties”) and windows should be firmly covered (e.g., boarded up) to prevent wind from entering the building and pushing the roof up.

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